Birmingham

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Birmingham (/ˈbɜrmɪŋəm/ bur-ming-əm, locally /ˈbɜrmɪŋɡəm/ bur-ming-gəm) is a city and metropolitan borough in the West Midlands of England. It is the most populous British city outside the capital London, with a population of 1,036,900 (2010 estimate), and lies at the heart of the West Midlands conurbation, the second most populous urban area in the United Kingdom with a population of 2,284,093 (2001 census). Birmingham’s metropolitan area is also the United Kingdom’s second most populous with a population of 3,683,000.

A medium-sized market town during the medieval period, Birmingham grew to international prominence in the 18th century at the heart of the Midlands Enlightenment and subsequent Industrial Revolution, which saw the town at the forefront of worldwide developments in science, technology and economic organisation, producing a series of innovations that laid many of the foundations of modern industrial society. By 1791 it was being hailed as “the first manufacturing town in the world”. Birmingham’s distinctive economic profile, with thousands of small workshops practising a wide variety of specialised and highly-skilled trades, encouraged exceptional levels of creativity and innovation, and provided a diverse and resilient economic base for an industrial prosperity that was to last into the final quarter of the 20th century. Its resulting high level of social mobility also fostered a culture of broad-based political radicalism, that under leaders from Thomas Attwood to Joseph Chamberlain was to give it a political influence unparalleled in Britain outside London, and a pivotal role in the development of British democracy.

Today Birmingham is a major international commercial centre, ranked as a beta− world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network; and an important transport, retail, events and conference hub. With a GDP of $90bn (2008 estimate, PPP), the economy of the urban agglomeration is the second largest in the UK and the 72nd largest in the world. Birmingham’s three universities and two university colleges make it the largest centre of higher education in the United Kingdom outside London, and its major cultural institutions, including the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the Birmingham Royal Ballet and the Barber Institute of Fine Arts, enjoy international reputations. The Big City Plan is a large redevelopment plan currently underway in the city centre with the aim of making Birmingham one of the top 20 most liveable cities in the world within 20 years.

People from Birmingham are known as ‘Brummies’, a term derived from the city’s nickname of ‘Brum’. This may originate from the city’s dialect name, Brummagem, which may in turn have been derived from one of the city’s earlier names, ‘Bromwicham’. There is a distinctive Brummie dialect and accent, both of which differ from the adjacent Black Country.

Birmingham’s early history is that of a remote and marginal area. The main centres of population, power and wealth in the pre-industrial English Midlands lay in the fertile and accessible valleys of the Trent, the Severn and the Avon. Birmingham lay between, on the upland Birmingham Plateau, and within the densely wooded and sparsely populated Forest of Arden.

Although there is evidence of human activity in the Birmingham area dating back 500,000 years, stone age artefacts suggest only seasonal settlements, overnight hunting parties and woodland activities such as tree felling. The area was first intensively settled and cultivated during the bronze age when a substantial influx of population, lasting from around 1700BC to 1000BC and possibly caused by conflict or immigration in the surrounding area, can be seen from the large number of burnt mounds that have been been found across the city. During the 1st century Roman conquest of Britain the forested country of the Birmingham Plateau formed a barrier to the advancing Roman legions, who built the large Metchley Fort in the area of modern-day Edgbaston in AD48, and made it the focus of a network of Roman Roads.

Birmingham as a settlement dates from the Anglo-Saxon era. The city’s name comes from the Old English Beormingahām, meaning the home or settlement of the Beormingas – suggesting that Birmingham was established in the 6th or early 7th Century as the primary settlement of an Anglian tribal grouping of that name. By the time of the Domesday Book of 1086, however, the manor was one of the poorest and least populated in Warwickshire, valued at only 20 shillings, with the area of the modern city divided between the counties of Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Worcestershire.

Birmingham’s development into a significant urban and commercial centre began in 1166, when the Lord of the Manor Peter de Birmingham obtained a charter to hold a market at his castle, and followed this with the deliberate creation of a planned market town within his demesne or manorial estate, around the site that became the Bull Ring. This established Birmingham as the primary commercial centre for the Birmingham Plateau at a time when the area’s economy was expanding rapidly, with population growth nationally leading to the clearance, cultivation and settlement of previously marginal land. Within a century of the charter Birmingham had grown into a prosperous urban centre of merchants and craftsmen. Within another fifty years it was the third largest town in Warwickshire.

The de Birmingham family continued to be Lords of Birmingham until the 1530s when Edward de Birmingham was cheated out of its lordship by John Dudley.

As early as the 16th century, Birmingham’s access to supplies of iron ore and coal meant that metalworking industries became established. By the time of the English Civil War in the 17th century, Birmingham had become an important manufacturing town with a reputation for producing small arms. Arms manufacture in Birmingham became a staple trade and was concentrated in the area known as the Gun Quarter. During the 18th century, Birmingham was home to the Lunar Society, an important gathering of local thinkers and industrialists.

Birmingham’s explosive industrial expansion started earlier than that of the textile-manufacturing towns of the North of England, and was driven by different factors. Instead of the economies of scale of a low-paid, unskilled workforce producing bulk commodities such as cotton in increasingly large, mechanised units of production, Birmingham’s industrial development was built on the adaptability and creativity of a highly-paid workforce, practicing a broad range of skilled specialist trades with a strong division of labour, in a highly entrepreneurial economy of small, often self-owned workshops. Levels of inventiveness were exceptional: between 1760 and 1850 – the core years of the English industrial revolution – Birmingham residents registered over three times as many patents as those of any other British town or city.

Innovation in 18th century Birmingham often took the form of incremental series of small-scale improvements to existing products or processes, but also included major developments that lay at the heart of the emergence of industrial society. In 1709 the Birmingham-trained Abraham Darby I moved to Coalbrookdale in Shropshire and built the first blast furnace to successfully smelt iron ore with coke, transforming the quality, volume and scale on which it was possible to produce cast iron. In 1732 Lewis Paul and John Wyatt invented roller spinning, the “one novel idea of the first importance” in the development of the mechanised cotton industry. In 1741 they opened the world’s first cotton mill in Birmingham’s Upper Priory. In 1765 Matthew Boulton opened the Soho Manufactory, pioneering the combination and mechanisation under one roof of previously separate manufacturing activities through a system known as “rational manufacture”. As the largest manufacturing unit in Europe this come to symbolise the emergence of the factory system. In 1746 John Roebuck invented of the lead chamber process, enabling the large-scale manufacture of sulphuric acid, and in 1780 James Keir developed a process for the bulk manufacture of alkali – together these marked the birth of the modern chemical industry. Most significant, however, was the development in 1776 of the industrial steam engine by James Watt and Matthew Boulton. Freeing for the first time the manufacturing capacity of human society from the limited availability of hand, water and animal power, this was arguably the pivotal moment of the entire industrial revolution, and a key factor in the worldwide increases in productivity that would follow over the following century.

Birmingham rose to national political prominence in the campaign for political reform in the early nineteenth century, with Thomas Attwood and the Birmingham Political Union bringing the country to the brink of civil war during the Days of May that preceded the passing of the Great Reform Act in 1832. The Union’s meetings on Newhall Hill in 1831 and 1832 were the largest political assemblies Britain had ever seen. Lord Durham, who drafted the act, wrote that “the country owed Reform to Birmingham, and its salvation from revolution”. This reputation for having “shaken the fabric of privilege to its base” in 1832 led John Bright to make Birmingham the platform for his successful campaign for the Second Reform Act of 1867, which extended voting rights to the urban working class.

By the 1820s, an extensive canal system had been constructed, giving greater access to natural resources to fuel to industries. Railways arrived in Birmingham in 1837 with the arrival of the Grand Junction Railway, and a year later, the London and Birmingham Railway. During the Victorian era, the population of Birmingham grew rapidly to well over half a million and Birmingham became the second largest population centre in England. Birmingham was granted city status in 1889 by Queen Victoria. Joseph Chamberlain, who was once mayor of Birmingham and later became an MP, and his son Neville Chamberlain, who was Lord Mayor of Birmingham and later the British Prime Minister, are two of the most well-known political figures who have lived in Birmingham. The city established its own university in 1900.

Birmingham suffered heavy bomb damage during World War II’s “Birmingham Blitz”, and the city was extensively redeveloped during the 1950s and 1960s. This included the construction of large tower block estates, such as Castle Vale. The Bull Ring was reconstructed and New Street station was redeveloped.

In the decades following World War II, the ethnic makeup of Birmingham changed significantly, as it received waves of immigration from the Commonwealth of Nations and beyond. The city’s population peaked in 1951 at 1,113,000 residents.

Birmingham remained by far Britain’s most prosperous provincial city as late as the 1970s, with household incomes exceeding even those of London and the South East, but its economic diversity and capacity for regeneration declined in the decades that followed World War II as Central Government sought to restrict the city’s growth and disperse industry and population to the stagnating areas of Scotland, Wales and Northern England. These measures hindered “the natural self-regeneration of businesses in Birmingham, leaving it top-heavy with the old and infirm”, and the city became increasingly dependent on the motor industry. The recession of the early 1980s saw Birmingham’s economy collapse, with unprecedented levels of unemployment and outbreaks of social unrest in inner-city districts.

In recent years, Birmingham has been transformed, with the construction of new squares like Centenary Square and Millennium Place. Old streets, buildings and canals have been restored, the pedestrian subways have been removed, and the Bull Ring shopping centre has been completely redeveloped. These were the first steps in the ambitious plans of Birmingham City Council for the redevelopment of Birmingham, which has become known as the Big City Plan.

Birmingham City Council is the largest local authority in the UK and the largest council in Europe with 120 councillors representing 40 wards. Its headquarters are at the Council House in Victoria Square. No single party is in overall control and the council is run by a Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition.

The city is also the seat of regional government for the West Midlands region of England as the home of the region’s Government Office, the regional development agency Advantage West Midlands, and the West Midlands Regional Assembly.

Birmingham was originally part of Warwickshire, but expanded in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, absorbing parts of Worcestershire to the south and Staffordshire to the north and west. The city absorbed Sutton Coldfield in 1974 and became a metropolitan borough in the new West Midlands county. Up until 1986, the West Midlands County Council was based in Birmingham City Centre.

Birmingham is located in the centre of the West Midlands region of England on the Birmingham Plateau – an area of relatively high ground, ranging around 500 to 1,000 feet (150–300 m) above sea level and crossed by Britain’s main north-south watershed between the basins of the Rivers Severn and Trent. To the south west of the city lie the Lickey Hills, Clent Hills and Walton Hill, which reach 1,033 feet (315 m) and have extensive views over the city.

The City of Birmingham forms a conurbation with the largely residential borough of Solihull to the south east, and with the city of Wolverhampton and the industrial towns of the Black Country to the north west. Together these make up the West Midlands Urban Area, which covers 59,972 ha (600 km2; 232 sq mi) and has a population of 2,284,093 (2001 Census). Beyond the urban area, Birmingham’s metropolitan area – the surrounding area to which it is closely economically tied through commuting – has a population of 3,683,000 (2001 Census) and includes the former Mercian capital of Tamworth and the cathedral city of Lichfield in Staffordshire to the north; the industrial city of Coventry and the Warwickshire towns of Nuneaton, Warwick and Leamington Spa to the east; and the Worcestershire towns of Redditch and Bromsgrove to the south west.

Much of the area now occupied by the city was originally a northern reach of the ancient Forest of Arden, whose former presence can still be felt in the city’s dense oak tree-cover and in the large number of districts such as Moseley, Saltley, Yardley, Stirchley and Hockley with names ending in “-ley”: the Old English -lēah meaning “woodland clearing”.

Geologically, Birmingham is dominated by the Birmingham Fault which runs diagonally through the city from the Lickey Hills in the south west, passing through Edgbaston, the Bull Ring to Erdington and Sutton Coldfield in the north east. To the south and east of the fault the ground is largely softer Mercia Mudstone Group (formerly known as Keuper Marl), interspersed with beds of Bunter pebbles and crossed by the valleys of the Rivers Tame, Rea and Cole along with their tributaries. Much of this would have been laid down during the Permian and Triassic periods. To the north and west of the fault, varying from 150 to 600 feet (45–180 m) higher than the surrounding area and underlying much of the city centre, lies a long ridge of harder Keuper Sandstone.

Relative to other large UK conurbations, Birmingham is a snowy city due to its inland location and comparatively high elevation.

There are over 8,000 acres (3,237 ha) of parkland open spaces in Birmingham. The largest of the parks is Sutton Park covering 2,400 acres (971 ha) making it the largest urban nature reserve in Europe. Birmingham Botanical Gardens are a Victorian creation, with a conservatory and bandstand, close to the city centre. The Winterbourne Botanic Garden, maintained by the University of Birmingham, is also located close to the city centre.

Birmingham has many corridors of wildlife that lie in both informal settings such as the Project Kingfisher and Woodgate Valley Country Park and in a selection of parks such as Handsworth Park and Small Heath Park. The City’s horticultural training facility at King’s Heath Park is paired up with Pershore College. More traditional environmental concerns are constantly raised by volunteer pressure group Birmingham Friends of the Earth. That group advocate sustainable travel such as local rail revival, walking and cycling, reduction in energy demand and waste generally, and the development of environmental technologies in the city.

The population density is 9,451 inhabitants per square mile (3,649/km²) compared to the 976.9 inhabitants per square mile (377.2/km²) for England. Females represented 51.6% of the population whilst men represented 48.4%. More women were 70 or over. 60.4% of the population was aged between 16 and 74, compared to 66.7% in England as a whole.

The Bimingham Larger Urban Zone, a Eurostat measure of the functional city-region approximated to local government districts, has a population of 2,357,100 in 2004. In addition to Birmingham itself, the LUZ includes the Metropolitan Boroughs of Dudley, Sandwell, Solihull and Walsall, along with the districts of Lichfield, Tamworth, North Warwickshire and Bromsgrove.

With a city GDP of $90bn (2008 est., PPP), the urban agglomeration around Birmingham has the second-largest economy in the United Kingdom and the 72nd-largest in the world. Although the city grew to prominence as a manufacturing and engineering centre, its economy today is dominated by the service sector, which in 2008 accounted for 86% of its employment. Birmingham is the largest centre for employment in public administration, education and health in Great Britain, and after Leeds and Glasgow it is the third-largest centre for employment in banking, finance and insurance outside London. It is ranked as a beta- world city by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network.

Two of Britain’s largest banks were founded in Birmingham – Lloyds Bank (now Lloyds Banking Group) in 1765 and the Midland Bank (now HSBC Bank) in 1836 – as well as Ketley’s Building Society, the world’s first building society, in 1775. In 2010, Cushman & Wakefield stated that Birmingham was the third best place in the United Kingdom to locate a business, and the 18th best in Europe.

Tourism is also an increasingly important part of the local economy. With major facilities such as the International Convention Centre and National Exhibition Centre the Birmingham area accounts for 42% of the UK conference and exhibition trade. The city’s sporting and cultural venues attract large numbers of visitors.

The city’s three Universities, (Aston University, University of Birmingham and Birmingham City University) and two University colleges have over 65,000 students and employ around 15,000 staff, making a significant contribution to the city’s economy as well as its research and innovation base.

With an annual turnover of £2.43bn, Birmingham city centre is the UK’s third largest retail centre, with the country’s busiest shopping centre – the Bullring – and the largest department store outside London – House of Fraser on Corporation Street. The City also has one of only four Selfridges department stores, and the second largest branch of Debenhams in the country. In 2004 the city was ranked as the third best place to shop in the United Kingdom, behind the West End of London and Glasgow, being described as a “world-class shopping centre”.

Manufacturing accounts for 10% of employment in Birmingham, a figure below the average for Great Britain as a whole. Despite the decline of manufacturing in the city several significant industrial plants remain, including Jaguar Cars in Castle Bromwich and Cadbury Trebor Bassett in Bournville.

Although the city has seen economic growth greater than the national average in the 21st century the benefits have been uneven, with commuters from the surrounding area obtaining many of the more skilled jobs. The two parliamentary constituencies with the highest unemployment rates in the UK – Ladywood and Sparkbrook and Small Heath – are both in inner-city Birmingham. Growth has also added to stresses on the city’s transport. Many major roads and the central New Street railway station operate over capacity at peak times. In 2011 it was announced that Birmingham will become an enterprise zone, which will help small businesses in the region to increase economic growth.

The internationally-renowned City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra’s home venue is Symphony Hall. Birmingham’s leading producing theatre is the Birmingham Repertory Theatre, which was founded by Barry Jackson in 1913 to “serve an art instead of making that art serve a commercial purpose”. The Rep pioneered innovations such as the performance of Shakespeare in modern dress, and launched the careers of performers including Laurence Olivier, Ralph Richardson, Peggy Ashcroft, Paul Scofield and Albert Finney. The Birmingham Royal Ballet is one of the United Kingdom’s three major ballet companies, and the only one based outside London. The Birmingham Opera Company under artistic director Graham Vick has developed an international reputation for its avant-garde productions, which often take place in factories, abandoned buildings and other found spaces around the city. In 2010 it was described by The Guardian as “far and away the most powerful example that I’ve experienced in this country of how and why opera can still matter.” More conventional seasons by Welsh National Opera and other visiting opera companies take place regularly at the Birmingham Hippodrome.

Author J. R. R. Tolkien was brought up in Birmingham with many locations in the city such as Moseley bog, Sarehole Mill and Perrott’s Folly supposedly being the inspiration for various scenes in The Lord of the Rings.

The influence of the Royal Birmingham Society of Artists and the Birmingham School of Art made Birmingham an important centre of Victorian art, particularly within the Pre-Raphaelite and Arts and Crafts movements. Major figures included the watercolourist David Cox, whose later works make him an important precursor of impressionism; the Pre-Raphaelite and symbolist Edward Burne-Jones; Walter Langley, the first of the Newlyn School painters; and Joseph Southall, leader of the group of artists and craftsmen known as the Birmingham Group.

The Birmingham Surrealists were among the “harbingers of surrealism” in Britain in the 1930s and the movement’s most active members in the 1940s, while more abstract artists associated with the city included Lee Bank-born David Bomberg and CoBrA member William Gear. Birmingham artists were prominent in several post-war developments in art: Peter Phillips was among the central figures in the birth of Pop Art; John Salt was the only major European figure among the pioneers of photo-realism; and the BLK Art Group used painting, collage and multimedia to examine the politics and culture of Black British identity. Contemporary artists from the city include the Turner Prize winner Gillian Wearing and the Turner Prize shortlisted Richard Billingham, John Walker and Roger Hiorns.

Birmingham’s role as a manufacturing and printing centre has supported strong local traditions of graphic design and product design. Iconic works by Birmingham designers include the Baskerville font, Ruskin Pottery, the Acme Thunderer whistle, the Art Deco branding of the Odeon Cinemas and the Mini.

Birmingham has two major public art collections. Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery is best known for its works by the Pre-Raphaelites, a collection “of outstanding importance”. It also holds a significant selection of old masters – including major works by Bellini, Rubens, Canaletto and Claude – and particularly strong collections of seventeenth century Italian Baroque painting and English watercolours. Its design holdings include Europe’s pre-eminent collections of ceramics and fine metalwork. The Barber Institute of Fine Arts in Edgbaston is one of the finest small art galleries in the world, with a collection of exceptional quality representing Western art from the thirteenth century to the present day.

The council also owns other museums in the city such as Aston Hall, Blakesley Hall, the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Soho House, and Sarehole Mill, a popular attraction for fans of J. R. R. Tolkien. The Birmingham Back to Backs are the last surviving court of back-to-back houses in the city. Cadbury World is a museum showing visitors the stages and steps of chocolate production and the history of chocolate and the company. The Ikon Gallery hosts displays of contemporary art, as does Eastside Projects.

Thinktank is Birmingham’s main science museum, with an IMAX cinema, a planetarium and a collection that includes the Smethwick Engine, the world’s oldest working steam engine. Other science-based museums include the National Sea Life Centre in Brindleyplace, the Lapworth Museum of Geology at the University of Birmingham and the Centre of the Earth environmental education centre in Winson Green.

Birmingham is chiefly a product of the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries; its growth began during the Industrial Revolution. Consequently, relatively few buildings survive from its earlier history, and those that do are protected. There are 1,946 listed buildings in Birmingham and thirteen scheduled ancient monuments. Birmingham City Council also operate a locally listing scheme for buildings that do not fully meet the criteria for statutorily listed status.

Traces of medieval Birmingham can be seen in the oldest churches, notably the original parish church, St Martin in the Bull Ring. A few other buildings from the medieval and Tudor periods survive, among them the Lad in the Lane and The Old Crown, the 15th century Saracen’s Head public house and Old Grammar School in Kings Norton and Blakesley Hall.

A number of Georgian buildings survive, including St Philip’s Cathedral, Soho House, Perrott’s Folly, the Town Hall and much of St Paul’s Square. The Victorian era saw extensive building across the city. Major civic buildings such as the Victoria Law Courts (in characteristic red brick and terracotta), the Council House and the Museum & Art Gallery were constructed. St Chad’s Cathedral was the first Roman Catholic cathedral to be built in the UK since the Reformation. Across the city, the need to house the industrial workers gave rise to miles of redbrick streets and terraces, many of back-to-back houses, some of which were later to become inner-city slums.

Postwar redevelopment and anti-Victorianism resulted in the loss of dozens of Victorian buildings like Birmingham New Street Station, and the old Central Library. In inner-city areas too, much Victorian housing was redeveloped. Existing communities were relocated to tower block estates like Castle Vale.

Birmingham City Council now has an extensive tower block demolition and renovation programme. There has been much construction in the city centre in recent years, including the award-winning Future Systems’ Selfridges building in the Bullring Shopping Centre, the Brindleyplace regeneration project and the Millennium Point science and technology centre. Funding for many of these projects has come from the European Union; the Town Hall for example received £3 million in funding from the European Regional Development Fund.

Highrise development has slowed since the 1970s and mainly in recent years because of enforcements imposed by the Civil Aviation Authority on the heights of buildings as they could affect aircraft from the Airport (e.g. Beetham Tower).

Partly because of its inland central location, Birmingham is a major transport hub on the motorway, rail, and canal networks. The city is served by a number of major motorways and probably the best known motorway junction in the UK: Spaghetti Junction.

The National Express Group headquarters are located in Digbeth, in offices above the newly developed Birmingham Coach Station, which forms the national hub of the company’s coach network.

Birmingham Airport, located six miles east of the city centre in the neighbouring borough of Solihull, is the sixth busiest by passenger traffic in the United Kingdom, and the second busiest outside the London area. It is a major base for airlines including Flybe, Ryanair, Bmibaby, Monarch Airlines and Thomson Airways; and is connected by flag carrier airlines to major international hubs including Dubai, New York-Newark, Frankfurt, Munich Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Amsterdam.

The city’s main railway station, Birmingham New Street, is the busiest in the United Kingdom outside London, used by over 40.1 million people annually. Birmingham Snow Hill station, another major railway station in the city centre, is also the terminus for the Midland Metro which operates between the station and Wolverhampton, also serving the nearby towns of Bilston, Wednesbury and West Bromwich. Another city centre station, Birmingham Moor Street (its terminal platforms having been restored) became (5 September 2011) the city’s third main line station, with express trains to London Marylebone (Chiltern Railways). There are plans to extend the Midland Metro route further into Birmingham city centre. Birmingham has a large rail-based park and ride network that feeds the city centre.

Birmingham is also notable for its extensive canal system, and the city is often noted for having more miles of canal than Venice. The canals fed the industry in the city during the Industrial Revolution. Canalside regeneration schemes such as Brindleyplace have turned the canals into tourist attractions.

St Philip’s Cathedral was upgraded from church status when the Anglican Diocese of Birmingham was created in 1905. There are two other cathedrals: St Chad’s, seat of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Birmingham and the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of the Dormition of the Mother of God and St Andrew. The Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Midlands is also based at Birmingham, with a cathedral under construction. The original parish church of Birmingham, St Martin in the Bull Ring, is Grade II* listed. A short distance from Five Ways the Birmingham Oratory was completed in 1910 on the site of Cardinal Newman’s original foundation. The oldest surviving synagogue in Birmingham is the 1825 Greek Revival Severn Street Synagogue, now a Freemason’s Lodge hall. It was replaced in 1856 by the Grade II* listed Singers Hill Synagogue. Birmingham Central Mosque, one of the largest in Europe, was constructed in the 1960s.

Birmingham has played an important part in the history of sport. The Football League – the world’s first league football competition – was founded by Birmingham resident and Aston Villa director William McGregor, who wrote to fellow club directors in 1888 proposing “that ten or twelve of the most prominent clubs in England combine to arrange home-and-away fixtures each season”. The modern game of tennis was developed between 1859 and 1865 by Harry Gem and his friend Augurio Perera at Perera’s house in Edgbaston, with the Edgbaston Archery and Lawn Tennis Society remaining the oldest tennis club in the world. The Birmingham and District Cricket League is the oldest cricket league in the world, and Birmingham was the host for the first ever Cricket World Cup, a Women’s Cricket World Cup in 1973. Birmingham was the first city to be named National City of Sport by the Sports Council. Birmingham was selected ahead of London and Manchester to bid for the 1992 Summer Olympics, but was unsuccessful in the final selection process, which was won by Barcelona.

Today the city is home of two of the country’s oldest professional football teams: Aston Villa F.C., who was founded in 1874 and still play at Villa Park; and Birmingham City F.C., who was founded in 1875 and still play at St Andrew’s. Rivalry between the clubs is fierce and the fixture between the two is called the Second City derby. Villa currently play in the Premier League and have been League champions on seven occasions and European Champions in 1982. Blues (Birmingham City) currently play in the Championship, the second tier of English football. Another Premier League club, West Bromwich Albion F.C., play just outside the city boundaries at The Hawthorns.

Seven times and current County Championship winners Warwickshire County Cricket Club play at Edgbaston Cricket Ground, which also hosts test cricket and one day internationals and is the largest cricket ground in the United Kingdom after Lord’s. Edgbaston was the scene of the highest ever score by a batsman in first-class cricket, when Brian Lara scored 501 not out for Warwickshire in 1994. Birmingham has a professional Rugby Union club, Moseley R.F.C., who play at Billesley Common; with a second professional club, Birmingham & Solihull R.F.C., playing at Damson Park in the neighbouring borough of Solihull. The city also has a rugby league club, the Birmingham Bulldogs, who compete in the Co-operative RLC Midlands Premier League (RLC).

Two major championship golf courses lie on the city’s outskirts. The Belfry near Sutton Coldfield is the headquarters of the Professional Golfers’ Association and has hosted the Ryder Cup more times than any other venue. The Forest of Arden Hotel and Country Club near Birmingham Airport is also a regular host of tournaments on the PGA European Tour, including the British Masters and the English Open.

The AEGON Classic is, alongside Wimbledon and Eastbourne, one of only three UK tennis tournaments on the WTA Tour. It is played annually at the Edgbaston Priory Club, which in 2010 announced plans for a multi-million pound redevelopment, including a new showcase centre court and a museum celebrating the game’s Birmingham origins.

The Alexander Stadium in Perry Barr is the headquarters of UK Athletics, and one of only two British venues to host fixtures in the elite international IAAF Diamond League. It is also the home of Birchfield Harriers, which has many international athletes among its members. The National Indoor Arena hosted the 2007 European Athletics Indoor Championships and 2003 IAAF World Indoor Championships, as well as hosting the annual Aviva Indoor Grand Prix – the only British indoor athletics fixture to qualify as a IAAF Indoor Permit Meeting – and a wide variety of other sporting events. Professional boxing, hockey, skateboarding, stock-car racing, greyhound racing and speedway also takes place within the city.

Birmingham’s development as a commercial town was originally based around its market for agricultural produce, established by royal charter in 1166. Despite the industrialisation of subsequent centuries this role has been retained and the Birmingham Wholesale Markets remain the largest combined wholesale food markets in the country, selling meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and flowers and supplying fresh produce to restauranteurs and independent retailers from as far as 100 miles away.

Birmingham is the only English city outside London to have three Michelin starred restaurants: Simpson’s in Edgbaston, Turners in Harborne and Purnell’s in the city centre.

Birmingham based breweries included Ansells, Davenport’s and Mitchells & Butlers. Aston Manor Brewery is currently the only brewery of any significant size. Many fine Victorian pubs and bars can still be found across the city, whilst there is also a plethora of more modern nightclubs and bars, notably along Broad Street.

The Wing Yip food empire first began in the city and now has its headquarters in Nechells. The Balti, a type of curry, was invented in the city, which has received much acclaim for the ‘Balti Belt’ or ‘Balti Triangle’. Famous food brands that originated in Birmingham include Typhoo tea, Bird’s Custard, Cadbury’s chocolate and HP Sauce.

Birmingham has several major local newspapers – the daily Birmingham Mail the now weekly Birmingham Post and the weekly Sunday Mercury, all owned by the Trinity Mirror. Forward (formerly Birmingham Voice) is a freesheet produced by Birmingham City Council, which is distributed to homes in the city. Birmingham is also the hub for various national ethnic media, and the base for two regional Metro editions (East and West Midlands).

Birmingham has a long cinematic history; the Electric Cinema on Station Street is the oldest working cinema in the UK, and Oscar Deutsch opened his first Odeon cinema in Perry Barr during the 1920s. Birmingham-born architect Harry Weedon collaborated with Oscar Deutsch to design over 300 cinemas across the country, most in the distinctive Art Decostyle. The largest cinema screen in the West Midlands is located at Millennium Point in the Eastside. Birmingham has also been the location for films including Felicia’s Journey of 1999, which used locations in Birmingham that were used in Take Me High of 1973 to contrast the changes in the city.

The BBC has two facilities in the city. The Mailbox, in the city centre, is the national headquarters of BBC English Regions and the headquarters of BBC West Midlands and the BBC Birmingham network production centre. These were previously located at the Pebble Mill Studios in Edgbaston. The BBC Drama Village, based in Selly Oak, is a production facility specialising in television drama.

Central/ATV studios in Birmingham were the location for the recording of many programmes for ITV including Tiswas and Crossroads, until the complex was closed in 1997, and Central moved to its current Gas Street studios. These were also the main hub for CITV, until that was moved to Manchester in 2004. Central’s output from Birmingham now consists of only the West and East editions of the regional news programme Central Tonight.

Birmingham is twinned with Chicago, United States; Frankfurt am Main, Germany; Johannesburg, South Africa; Leipzig, Germany ; Lyon, France (Since 1951); and Milan, Italy.

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